Posted by: Sheila Duffy ASHS | March 14, 2011

Plain to see

Australia want to be the first country to introduce plain packs in 2012.

The Westminster Government’s Tobacco Plan for England, announced on 9 March – No Smoking Day – is encouraging in setting out plans to consult on standard packs for cigarettes, a measure that would have to be considered and implemented at UK level.

Jeremy Blackburn of Japan Tobacco which produces brands including Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges has stated, “marketing restrictions make the pack the hero".

Cigarette packs are now designed and branded as carefully as perfume boxes and for similar reasons; this is a product that relies on its image to recruit new consumers. Standardised packaging shuts down the very features that are designed to attract targeted audiences; the holographic patterns that sparkle under club lights, the i-pod style earphone decoration, the slim elegant purse-sized packs. Plain packs help the health messages to stand out, showing the reality of the product. Strip away the branded imagery and the product itself starts to look distinctly uncool.

Less impressive is the coalition government’s proposals on the point of sale display ban in England, both delaying its introduction and allowing for a permitted display area around a quarter of the gantry size. Displays of cigarettes in shops are proven promotional devices, and the branding they push is noticed disproportionately by young people. Kids experiment with the most visible brands. In many cases these display gantries are largely paid for and installed by tobacco companies, and are often placed right behind the sweetie counter. Covering up these promotions won’t make much difference to established adult smokers, who will still be able to go where they normally go and buy what they normally buy. However this measure will change the environment, as post-implementation research from Ireland suggests, to a more supportive one for young people staying smoke-free. The Scottish Government has announced timescales for implementation in line with those set out by Westminster. They need to stay strong on the permitted display size to stay true to the intentions of the legislation.

Ending point of sale displays is an evidenced measure that is designed to prevent young people from becoming hooked on tobacco, and I trust that the Scottish Government will continue to show vision and commitment to bringing in the effective tobacco control measures voted through in Scotland.

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